ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)

These figures appear on the back pillar of a magical healing statue, Turin 3031, which portrayed a man holding a Horus cippus. Only the lower part has survived.

If that's an accurate rendering of "Sekhmet the Great, beloved of Ptah", then her phallus seems to have slid down to her knees. Kákosy compares her to other lioness-headed, ithyphallic figures, from Karnak and Hibis, and also "the statue in Naples inv. 1065 back pillar right side ref V.1.", which alas I seem to have neglected to photocopy.

There are enough examples of this figure - the ithyphallic lioness-headed goddess - to say that it was definitely A Thing, a rare example of androgyny in Egyptian religion. But what did it mean to the ancients? If it's a syncretism between Mut or Sekhmet and a specific male god or gods, then why not name them? Perhaps it was comparable to pantheistic figures - showing that the deity in question had the powers of all the gods, male and female?

ETA: Figures labelled as Sekhmet appear elsewhere on the same statue - which makes sense for a goddess associated with sickiness and healing. The goddess takes various forms: holding two snakes; holding a long double-headed snake ("Sekhmet who subdues the Rebel"); as a lion-headed uraeus, presented with the wedjat by a baboon (presumably a reference to the tale of the Distant Goddess); and as a lion lying on a shrine, wearing the atef crown ("Sekhmet the Great who dwells in the City" (perhaps Thebes)).

Nefertum also makes multiple appearances, firstly to the left of Horus on the cippus, in the form of a lotus with tall plume hung with two pairs of menits. The texts on the cippus which refer to this symbol name "Horus the Saviour", who Kákosy speculates was identified with Nefertem in this case. Kákosy writes that this symbol was "a potent emblem" and says that Nefertem and his lotus often appear in magic; Horus on the papyrus, which appears on the right side of the cippus opposite Neferterm's symbol as its "counterpart", "may have been the symbol of rejuvenation and freshness of health" as well as the union of male and female (many goddesses hold a papyriform sceptre).

There are several other interesting figures, such as Sobek pulling a snake out of his mouth and two cats flanking a sistrum. "Khonsu the Great who came forth from the Nun" appears in the form of a crocodile on a pedestal with a falcon-head and sun-disc emerging from its back.

Kákosy, László. Egyptian Healing Statues in Three Museums in Italy: Turin, Florence, Naples. Ministero per i beni e le attività culturali, Soprintendenza al Museo delle antichità egizie, 1999.
ikhet_sekhmet: (Butterfly hair)
The most important part of this enormous book are the photos - especially those of the eponymous treasures being brought up by divers from Herakleion, Canopus, and Alexandria - but here are some notes from the text:
  • The gods' attributes suggest the early settlement of the Nile and the ancientness of their worship: "like the Bedouin, the Egyptian gods hold a staff, goddesses hold a reed; their crowns are made of rushes, often they wear nothing other than a few ostrich plumes or the horns of the animals that are holy to them."

  • Oddly, the Hathor crown worn by Isis is described as including a lunar disc, rather than a solar one. (p 105)

  • Herakleion, the sunken city, is named for Herakles, whose mythology included exploits in Egypt, Libya, and Ethiopia; one story had him killing the Egyptian tyrant Busiris, who sacrificed all strangers to Zeus. The truth of the tale was disputed amongst the ancients, but the human sacrifice of foreigners might have had a basis in fact: "Until the abolition of this practice in the sixth century BC, it happened that troublemakers were condemned to be burned alive at one of the numerous sanctuaries where a reproduction of the mummified corpse of Osiris at the point of resurrection was watched over and tended while being burned alive [sic - during the execution, presumably]. The fact of redness was for men, as for animals, a mark of their genetic kinship with Seth and Apopi. As a consequence, Greek pirates - blond or red-haired - who presented this mark underwent this death sentence, which was theologically based and ritualised." The king Busiris could be per-Osiris - one of the temples where this ritual was carried out.

  • From the fifth century BCE, Amun was identified with Zeus, Mut with Hera, and Khonsu with Herakles. The authors describe this as "disconcerting", since the deities have, "at first sight", nothing in common. The child Khonsu, mummified, shown as large as an adult but wearing a sidelock, is "Chons in Thebes Neferhotep"; as a falcon-headed man with the lunar disc for a hat he is "Horus (!), master of joy". "The god identified with Herakles [must have been] 'Chons the child', one of those specifically childlike aspects in which all Egyptian gods were doubled by a Harpokrates, a 'child Horus'", with Khonsu's version being recognisable by the hem-hem and nemes headdresses. The authors explain the identification of Herakles and Khonsu as stemming from their similar origins - the god Amun took the form of the pharaoh to impregnate the royal wife with the next, divine pharaoh, and Zeus took the form of Amphitryon to impregnate Alcmena with the demigod Herakles.

  • I found a couple of examples of Khonsu being given the epithet "Horus, master of joy", such as at Qasr el Aguz.

  • Two statues from Alexandria, a snake and an ibis, probably represent "gods that were particularly venerated by the Alexandrians": Agathodaimon and Thoth, "alias Hermes Trismegistos". The "good genie" Agathodaimon was worshipped from the city's founding by Alexander. "When a shrine was erected small snakes would appear and would then scatter through the city, where the Alexandrians would protect and honour them. The origin of this seems to be linked to the Egyptian serpent Schai, a very popular protector god [whose] partner goddess Renenutet, having been assimilated into Isis Thermoutis - Isis in the form of a uraeus - often appeared alongside Agathodaimon on reliefs." Which may also have contributed to an assimilation of Agathodaimon and Sarapis. (p 204)

  • In their statues etc the Ptolemies had themselves presented according to Egyptian artistic conventions, though occasional Greek details crop up to lend authenticity to the portrait. The first queen "to be represented in the round in a pharaonic style" was Arsinoe II. "His Majesty ordered her [Arsinoe II's] statue to be erected in all the temples - which was acceptable to their priests - because these intentions were known to the gods and her kind deeds to all men." - Mendes Stela (The "queen-wives" continued to be represented like throughout the dynasty, all with "impersonal but splendid" anatomy, much as women in Egyptian art had always been portrayed with "perfect shapes clad in a tight dress". (p 160) Conversely, Isis was represented in the form of a Ptolemaic queen (p 170). Arsinoe II "was especially considered as a notable earthly manifestation of Aphrodite" (and given the epithet "Zephyritis"), "took an active interest in the navy and maritime routes" and according to her cult was "adored" by admirals, sailors, and "indigenous oarsmen" (p 172).

  • In the Arsinoeion in Alexandria, "an engineer had planned to put in place an iron statue which was supposed to have floated in the air by virtue of a magnet"!

  • In one area, divers found the remains of nine "decapitated and mutilated sphinxes" - "the result of vigorous dry blows applied with blunt instruments. This was the normal treatment meted out by Christians to deprive the demons that the pagan gods embodied" of their senses and their ability to move. (I wonder: did this idea, that there were spirits in the statues, originate with the Christians or come from the Egyptian concept of gods inhabiting their representations?) (p 170)

  • From Isis' temple at Narmouthis (p 210):

    All mortals who live on the infinite earth,
    Thracians, Greeks and barbarians too,
    Utter your beautiful name, honoured by all,
    Each in his own tongue, each in his own country.
    The Syrians name you Astarte, Artemis, Nanaia,
    And the people of Lykia Leto, sovereign.
    The men of Thrace name you Mother of the Gods,
    The Greeks Hera, enthroned on high, or even Aphrodite,
    Hestia the benevolent, Rhea, or Demeter.
    But the Egyptians call you Thioui, because you, and you alone,
    Are all the goddesses that people know by other names.

    (Various sources give "The Unique" for Thioui.)
ikhet_sekhmet: (lioness)
A footnote in Mistress of the House, Mistress of Heaven gives a list of "almost forty [Egyptian] goddesses with leonine associations". Using the footnote's spelling, they are:

Matit ("The Dismemberer")
Mehit ("The Seizer")
Pakhet ("The Mangler")
the lioness of Athribis

Blimey, I've never even heard of some of those! What a find! Hmm, I count 34, and I think some of those might be the same goddess with different names. OTOH, there's one missing - Henut-Mestjet or Mestjet (known from just one stela). ETA: And another - the goddess Ai!

("Leonine associations" is a bit vague. Many of these goddesses are routinely represented as a lioness-headed woman - but what's the connection for the others?)

I'll add more stuff to this posting as I go along:
  • Djedet is "a protective goddess" in The Book of Traversing Eternity, although not in a liony way.

  • Geraldine Pinch notes that "Hathor, Lady of Mefkat... appears in lioness-headed form on a stela from Serabit el-Khadim."

  • Another addition: Seret is attested by an inscription on a 5th Dynasty statue. (Note to self: Le Role et le Sens p 386; Reallexikon der Religionsgeschichte p 199, Fisher 200.932 2 )

  • Here's Matit in the Lexikon. She was worshipped alongside the falcon deity Anty at Deir el Gebrawi in the Twelfth Nome of Upper Egypt. Here she is in Constant de Wit's Le Role Et Le Sens Du Lion Dans Legypte Ancienne. She had a male counterpart, the god Mati.

  • Wepset appears in the Coffin Texts (CT I, 376/7a-380/1a), in which fire is given "several different names, including Wepset and w3w3.t-flame." (Willems 1996.) She is the Eye of the Sun and the Distant Goddess ("Wawat" is Lower Nubia). "Shu is regularly identified with Onuris" and in this spell Shu is said to "extinguish the flame, to cool Wepset and extinguish the w3w3.t-flame which dispels the mourning of the gods." Willems also notes that a female w3w3.t-flame, personifying "the burning poison in a person's body" is cooled "in a magical text on the Socle Béhague (h25-26)". (p 317)

  • Seems like a reasonable place to throw in these snippets from The Life of Meresamun: "The multiple flexible strands of the menat are represented as a broad collar with falcon terminals around the neck of a female deity, most commonly Hathor but sometimes also Isis or the feline-form goddesses Tefnut, Sekhmet, Menhit, and Bastet." (p 37) "Among deities, Hathor, Mut, Sekhmet, and Tefnut are shown wearing them and, for unknown reasons, the menat was the characteristic emblem of the male god Khonsu." (p 39) Mistress of the House, Mistress of Heaven notes that lioness-headed goddesses "are known in relief as early as the Old Kingdom and in three dimensions from the New Kingdom." (p 138)

  • A statue of Prince Hetep-Seshat and his missus lists amongst his titles "prophet of Khentichemi [Khenti-kheti?], prophet of Banebdjedet, prophet of Horus and Seth... prophet of Bastet, prophet of Shesemtet." He was a busy lad.

  • Aperet-Isis formed a triad at Akhmim with Min and Kolanthes. (ETA: Aha! Henadology reports that Arepet-Isis is actually an epithet of Repyt.)

  • Isis was depicted with a lioness head on Sidonian amulets.

Capel, Anne K. and Glenn E. Markoe. Mistress of the House, Mistress of Heaven: women in ancient Egypt. New York, Hudson Hills Press in association with Cincinnati Art Museum, 1996.

Pinch, Geraldine. Votive Offerings to Hathor. Oxford, Griffith Institute, 1993.

Teeter, Emily and Janet H. Johnson (eds). The Life of Meresamun : a temple singer in ancient Egypt. Chicago, Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 2009.

Willems, Harco. The Coffin of Heqata (Cairo JdE 36418) (Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 70). Peeters Publishers and Department of Oriental Studies, Leuven, Belgium, 1996.
ikhet_sekhmet: (the great tomcat)
Right then. The moon and the sun are linked as the eyes of a god in various places in Egyptian myth - I'll stick a bunch of notes behind the cut - but if my rummagings are correct, how the right eye, the solar Eye of Re, the ferocious goddess, overlaps with the left eye, the lunar Eye of Horus, is this: Thoth brings them both back.

I was familiar with two stories involving Thoth and an eye - the myth of the Distant Goddess, in which the Eye of Re decamps to Nubia in a huff, and Thoth (or Onuris, or Shu) is dispatched to get her back; and the healing of Horus' eye after Set's assault.

What I didn't know is that there's also a myth in which Horus's eye wanders off and Thoth returns it to him:
The eye of Horus sprang up as he fell on yonder side of the Winding Watercourse, to protect itself against (or, free itself from) Set.
Thot saw it on yonder side of the Winding Watercourse.
The eye of Horus sprang up on yonder side of the Winding Watercourse, and fell upon the wing of Thot on yonder side of the Winding Watercourse.
O ye gods, ye who ferry over on the wing of Thot to yonder side of the Winding Watercourse, to the eastern side of heaven, to speak with Set about that eye of Horus, may N. ferry over with you on the wing of Thot to yonder side of the Winding Watercourse, to the eastern side of heaven, that he, N., may speak with Set about that eye of Horus.
- Pyramid Texts 594-596
It'd make a great animated cartoon - Horus' eye either leaping out of his face (or perhaps off Set's forehead) and Thoth spotting it in time to catch it and fly it back to its owner. (Hmmm. I wonder if this is an image of the changeable moon travelling through the sky.)

Various other bits of the PT touch on the same story. Patrick Boylan discusses all this in a footnote:
"The legend of the flight and return of the eye is obviously similar in many respects to the legends of the Destroying Eye of Re, of the angry eye which becomes the serpent on the diadem of the sun-god, of Onuris who fetched the divine lioness from the eastern desert, and of Hathor of Byblos. All these legends are intricately interwoven - so much so, indeed, that it is often difficult to decide to which of them a particular feature or motif primitively belongs. Thoth is certainly associated primitively with the astral legend of the moon-eye that vanished and was found again. The primitive astral myth contains no suggestion of an angry eye of Horus. Thoth's function as pacifier of the eye is connected with the more reflective legends of the Eye as Serpent on the crown of Horus (in which Sechmet appears as the Eye in her form nsr.t, and Thoth is the shtp nsr.t). (p 32, fn 1)
It's a bit slack to just quote chunks of Boylan, but I'm knackered and he explains it so simply:
"The name of [Onuris] Ini hri.t, 'He who brings the one who was far away', refers probably to the bringing to Egypt from the mountain lands of the eastern deserts of a goddess in leonine form who was forced or induced to leave her desert home by an ancient battle-god in lion or falcon form. This ancient god was Horus the warrior-god who, because he brought to Egypt the stranger goddess, received the epithet Ini hri.t (Onuris) - 'He that fetches her that was far away'. Later this Hri.t came to be identified with the wd3.t and Ini hri.t was explained as 'He that brings the Eye that was far away'. Thus, the name of Onuris came to be written (as Thoth's could be, and sometimes was, written) as a deity carrying the wd3.t. (p 35)
And as a footnote to that lot:
"In some cases, of course, Thoth brings back to Horus (or Re) the right eye, or the Sun. This activity seems to be secondary or borrowed in the legends of the sun-god Re: it is based on his more primitive activity in connection with the moon." (p 35 fn 1)
So there you go - multiple versions of basically the same story, the eye leaving and being returned, with slippage between just which eye is doing the round trip.

More notes )


Andrews, Carol. "The Boar, the Ram-Headed Crocodile and the Lunar Fly". in Studies in Egyptian Antiquities: A Tribute to T.G.H. James (Occasional paper 123). London, British Museum, 1999. pp. 79 - 81.

Boylan, Patrick. Thoth, the Hermes of Egypt. Chicago, Ares Publishers, 1987. (A reprint of this, I believe.)

Darnell, J. C. 1997. The Apotropaic Goddess in the Eye. Studien zur Altägyptischen Kultur 24, pp 35-48.

Troy, Lana. "Mut Enthroned". in van Dijk, J. (ed.), Essays on Ancient Egypt in Honour of Herman te Velde, Groningen, 1997, pp.301-315.

Willems, Harco. The coffin of Heqata (Cairo JdE 36418): a case study of Egyptian funerary culture of the early Middle Kingdom. Leuven, Uitgeverij Peeters en Departement Oriëntalistiek, 1996.
ikhet_sekhmet: (lunar eclipse)
Now this is odd.
"Mythological texts tell of the left or lunar eye, the feline goddess (Tefnut, Hathor, or Mehit, for example) who ravaged the enemies of Ra until she was appeased. Then she became the full moon, bringing increase and prosperity for the land."
That's more from Egypt's Dazzling Sun, this time considering the Prudhoe Lions aka the Soleb Lions at the BM. I've been ferretting out references which seem to indicate the moon was thought of as the "left eye" of Ra, corresponding to the sun as his "right eye", or that seem to link the two eyes. I've found more than I expected (of which more later) but nothing quite like this, which seems to just conflate the two outright. (Kozloff is pretty sharp with the footnotes, but doesn't give one for this bit.)

The same article (page 219 of the exhibition guide, a book you wouldn't want to drop on your foot) notes that the temple of Soleb was dedicated to "Nebmaatra [ie Amenhotep III], lord of Nubia, a deified form of the king himself as the moon god Khonsu, the deity embodied by the lion." Amenhotep III built the temple; later, it was moved and reinscribed for Tutankhamen and Ay, with Nebmaatra being reidentified with another moon god, Iah. "Syncretized rather early, Iah and Khonsu are easily confused, since Iah was not uncommonly represented in an anthropomorphic striding form, as was Nebmaatra of Soleb."
Kozloff, Arielle P., et al. Egypt's dazzling sun: Amenhotep III and his world. Cleveland, Cleveland Museum of Art in cooperation with Indiana University Press, 1992.


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Plaything of Sekhmet

July 2017



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